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How Does a Slow Cooker Work?

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Economical and easy to use, slow cookers were designed to make the most of budget-friendly ingredients and still prepare a healthy family meal. What's more is that with the simplified cooking process of a slow cooker, the least amount of effort is required. So no matter how many schedules and activities you're juggling each day, you'll always have time to whip up an affordable, healthy and tasty meal that the entire family will love.

How can a slow cooker like the Stainless Steel Crock-Pot® 6-Quart Countdown Digital Slow Cooker with Little Dipper® Warmer be capable of all that? Here's how it works:

It all comes down to the design. Essentially, slow cookers are just electric pots with stoneware inserts. Unlike a conventional oven or stovetop burner, slow cookers can consistently cook food at low or high temperatures for as many as 12 hours. These nifty contraptions, designed to operate completely on their own, work by trapping heat and cooking food for a long period of time. For this reason, it's important to avoid removing the lid of your slow cooker. Every time it's removed, heat escapes, and that will only increase the overall cooking time needed.

One of the greatest attributes of the slow cooker is the incredible flavoring that it can produce. Simmering a mixture of ingredients in their own juices for several hours produces that rich, deep flavor that baking, grilling or frying simply aren't capable of. Cooking on a low, steady heat brings out the most savory of flavors and gives slow-cooked meals that extra zest.

Some ingredients, such as onions, yield better results if they are pre-cooked.Some ingredients, such as onions, yield better results if they're pre-cooked.

To make the most out of your slow cooker, the important thing to note is that it works most effectively when advanced preparation is involved. Especially if you're short on time, preparing all of the ingredients for your slow-cooked meal the night before will be a huge help. Some ingredients, such as onions, will yield better results if they're pre-cooked, but it all comes down to preference and taste. Put all prepared ingredients in your slow cooker the night before, cover the dish and leave in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, bring the pot out until it reaches room temperature and then you're ready to start cooking!

Cook Time
Cook time varies widely from dish to dish, yet it's a critical piece of information to know before beginning your slow-cooked meal. Side dishes, desserts and dips typically take less than 4 to 6 hours. Meats, roasts and stews take longer and will usually cook for anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. For slow cookers from the Crock-Pot® brand, typical cook time to reach the simmer point is 7 to 8 hours on low and 3 to 4 hours on high.

Due to the slow ramp up, and even heating of a slow cooker, recipes featured on this site can be cooked in a range of slow cooker sizes. Recipes can be increased or decreased by one quart size per the cooking instructions. For smaller sauces and dips that call for 3 quarts or less, it is not recommended to alter the unit size. Crock-Pot® is a registered trademark and should not be used generically when referring to a 'slow cooker' within the recipes.
Sunbeam Products, Inc. d/b/a Jarden Consumer Solutions has not tested these recipes and is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe. You may not achieve the results desired due to variations in ingredients, cooking temperatures, cooking times, typos, errors, omissions, or individual cooking abilities. Please always use your best judgment when cooking with raw ingredients such as eggs, chicken or fish.


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